Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas From All of Us to All of You!


Sunday, November 3, 2013

R2-D2 Eats Dirt

Yesterday Dean asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  Normally I don’t have a list of things I want for my birthday or Christmas.  It's hard for me to come up with gift ideas just for me.  I'm all about sharing.  How about a window?  Let's buy each other a new replacement window and that way we'll have two new ones.  But this time I surprised him. I had a list.

I want one of those round things that clean your floors. 

Puzzled look.

You know, the round thing.  I don’t know what it’s called.  The robot something and you just turn it on and it goes one way and then it bumps into something and it goes the other way and then your floors are clean. You just leave it and come home and your floors are clean. 

Raised eyebrows.  The carpet is clean?

No.  The hardwood floors because we have wood floors in Casper and in Sheridan and Angus is a fur factory.  But I don’t know if they’re good.  I haven’t researched them yet and now NPR says there’s some kind of vine thing going on with Amazon’s reviews so even if the reviews say they’re great I’m not sure I’ll be able to believe them but still, that’s what I think I want; that round thing that bumps into walls and cleans your floors.  Uh ....well .....actually .... now that I'm really thinking and talking about it .... hauling the vacuum back and forth between Sheridan and Casper is fine.  We should just do that.  I don’t really need a vacuum and a round bump-into-walls-thing.


Or, I did think maybe I wanted a leather jacket because they’re really warm and I’ve been wearing the old leather jacket Abby got at the thrift store when she was in college for uh, well, a long time and I love it, but I thought it might be nice to have one that is new.  But then I thought about it and the hole in the sleeve is really small and doesn’t even show at all if I hold my arm just right and as long as the holes in the lining aren’t in the pockets so I don’t lose my gloves it seems silly to buy a new one.  And anyway, I have that nice red coat you got me a few years ago.  Just because I have to unzip it if I want to sit down without it bunching up around my middle and pushing the top of the zipper into my neck doesn’t mean I shouldn’t wear it.  It’s a very nice coat.


Or snow shoes.  I thought maybe we could get each other snow shoes for Christmas.  But I don’t want them if you don’t want them because I don’t want to go snow shoeing all by myself.  (Kind of like you must not want to skate/ski  by yourself since those new skating skis I bought you for Christmas a few years ago, when you really, really wanted them, are snow virgins.)   So maybe snow shoes aren’t a good idea after all.


Later on that day as I was getting ready to mow the leaves up from the yard I had another idea.  A sewing light would be a great thing to get me.  I’m really going to need a sewing light because I had to give Abby’s back to her and I really need a lot of light to sew by now and we don’t have great lamps or ceiling lights here or in Sheridan.  So a sewing light would be awesome.  But I'd have to haul it back and forth with the vacuum.  There should be room for both of them but that’d be kind of a pain.  And then I remembered I have my head lamp.  Dean got me a head lamp three years ago for Christmas and I’ve never taken it out of the packaging.  I could just put that on my head and when I look down, the light will fall right where I need it to on the fabric.  And those lights are really bright.  Plus it would be super easy to take back and forth between here and Sheridan.  Cool.  A head lamp. That will work.  So I don’t need a sewing light after all. 

 As I walked out the garage door toward the lawn mower I was mulling over the robot thing and the snow shoes and the jacket and my solution to a sewing light and trying to come up with more Christmas gift ideas.

Thanks, Angus.  I needed a good idea.



Saturday, October 19, 2013

Robin! To the Bat Cave!

It's been nice to get back to blogging again.  I enjoy writing pointless and insignificant drivel, even if I am the only one who reads it.  Unfortunately, my blogging may shortly become sporadic again since the pompous receptacles of supposed humanity have momentarily run out of hot air and sent me back to work at least until the post-Christmas credit card bills come due.    

I haven't gotten much blogging done for the last few months because after Dean retired I started working ten hour days so we could have long weekends in Sheridan.  But if I’m never home on the weekends anymore it means during the week, after working ten hours, I have to catch up
on everything I don’t get done on the weekends, like petting the cats, and doing laundry, and pulling off the dead parts of the plants I always forget to water, and feeding the kitties special treats before Angus realizes I've opened the special kitty treat bag, and sweeping up the dog fur that flies off of Angus after he's heard me open the special kitty treat bag.  I just haven't had much time for blogging.    Those reasons sounded way better than  just because I’m tired and lazy ……. didn’t they?

As long as we’ve been driving up to Sheridan every weekend since mid-May, we figured we may as well take the opportunity to move most of our worldly possessions one carload load at a time.  I'm not forced to sleep on a blow up bed here in Casper yet but it's a bit cavernous.

It's also been a bit of a trial at times when we're in Sheridan and that one thing we really want is in Casper, or vice versa, but that's okay.  Searching for garage sales has helped us become more familiar with our future town, and there's nothing wrong with owning two coffee pots, two blenders and two toasters.  It'll just give us the opportunity to have our own garage sale.

Other than that, relocation via Subaru has been smooth.  I’m not kidding.  You don’t think it’s possible?  I didn’t think it would be possible to get rid of all the kitchen appliances, cupboards, and detritus one garbage can at a time when we remodeled the kitchen either but we did it.  Well, actually, Dean did it.  And I was so proud of him for actually throwing all that stuff away and not saving it for “art” projects.  If only I could be as proud of him during this move …

All you need is your Subaru!
I’m not saying you can completely move a house with only a Subaru.  Or … hmmm … maybe I am.  There’s a surprising amount of space in the cargo area and whoever invented roof racks was a genius.  I can’t think of one thing you couldn’t move in, or on, a Subaru Outback.  Of course, hoisting a piano up onto the roof might be tricky, and I’m not quite sure how much head room would remain after a two-hour drive, but that hasn’t been a concern for us since we’re selling ours.  Anybody out there want a piano??  I'll make you a great deal.  Anybody?

Before we had fully recognized the capabilities of the transportation by Subaru technique, we did wimp out early this spring by renting a truck to move some larger items.  But I have now come to the conclusion that with some creative loading and a variety of bungee cords, straps and padding, trucks are an unnecessary luxury.  By this time next year when I am ready to retire, I fully expect we will have moved the balance of our whole 3,000 square foot house two hours north to Sheridan using only one Subaru Outback wagon and a few paper boxes. 

It’s a technique which is adaptable to any type of move.  Especially congressman voted out of office.

Yes.  This loveseat was in ....


..... our Subaru!  Didn't believe me didja?


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Billy Ray, I'm Breakin'

I have no idea when anyone is reading this because I am typing it in Sheridan* where we have no wifi.  However, if my forced “vacation” continues much longer, my temptation to connect to the world may become more pronounced.  Especially if I feel the need to search for a new recipe for bread or cookies or cake.  In the meantime, I am content with the natural connection nature has provided me by the unexpected visitors I see through the big picture window at the back of our house.   I wonder how long it will be until the owners discover their own connections to the natural world are missing.

Even without a television, Netflix, internet or powerful steeds, I’ve managed to occupy myself during the days we’ve been up here.  Slaughtering box elder bugs takes much more time than you could ever imagine.  

Last year I was the only one driven to crazed distraction by masses of disgusting red and brown beetles covering the front of the house and flying into my hair or down my neck when I tried to walk through the front door.  This year it’s been a different story.  Dean and I have become an army of two on the battlefield of creepy-crawlies.  We are armed with killing powder, fly swatters and a pump sprayer.  Every swat, soapy water drenching or sprinkle of Borax is completed with precision as we work toward utter annihilation.  It doesn’t seem that those skin-crawling husks of vile legs and antennae infuriate or disgust Dean the way they do me.  I think he just enjoys the battle.  But that’s okay because every battle we win brings us closer to the end of the war.  Sadly, every battle we lose brings me closer to the end of my sanity because it turns out this time of year, box elder bugs factor into just about everything I try to do – like acid stain a concrete floor for example.

Have any of you attempted to acid-stain your concrete floor?  Raise your hands.  No, wait.  Leave me a comment and let me know how many box elder bugs were permanently affixed to your floor when you were finished.  What?  The only thing you had to grab was that one fleeting puff of fur released when your dog shook himself?  You didn’t have to factor in the time of day, the air temperature, the percent of cloud cover or the angle of the sun?  You didn’t have to calculate the length of time needed to complete your project in order to avoid the peak hours of warmth when prospective smears would squeeze through the miniscule cracks in your old-leaky-yet-to-be-replaced windows and crawl across the floor?  Huh.  Imagine that.  You must not live along a creek in Sheridan.

Before I embarked on this acid-staining project I had intended to lay laminate flooring in my basement sewing room and when our friends, Larry and Heidi, came for a visit in September, I already had 17 samples of flooring lying against the wall.  When Heidi heard the anguish in my voice as I talked about the difficulty deciding which to choose, listened to me as I stressed about my ability to lay it, nodded in sympathy as I debated about the pros and cons of laminate versus tile versus vinyl versus carpet, and anguished over the expense, she needed to shut me up took pity on me and suggested I consider staining the concrete instead.    It would be less expensive and if I didn’t like it I could still consider an alternate floor covering.

The thought of using an acid based etching concoction and gearing up like I was going to make meth was scary and daunting.  Not that I know how to make meth.  Or even what it looks like.  Okay, I know the good stuff is a really pretty blue but that’s all I know.  I have no idea how to make it.  Really.  I barely passed chemistry.  It’s just that Mr. White was really safe and he wore all that gear and acid-staining my floor made me think of protective clothing which made me think of meth and …. oh, never mind.  Anyway, mostly I was scared I wouldn’t be able to do it.  That I would accidentally etch my walls or my legs or I would etch too much concrete or not enough.  I was scared it would be a failure. 

So I did a lot of research.   And even though the many You-Tube videos I watched didn’t say anything about not mixing box elder bug parts into the etching solution, and the can of stain didn’t mention anything about how to camouflage box elder legs when they become stuck in the stain, and the Valspar can didn’t tell me how to remove box elder shells from under the dried wet-look sealer, I decided to throw caution to the wind and go ahead with Heidi’s suggestion and stain the concrete floor in my future sewing room.  And I did.

Before I became a hunchback
As with every project, the preparation takes longer, is more arduous and offers absolutely no reward other than the hope of a happy ending – kind of like pregnancy.  First I had to scrape up all the paint stains and bits of leftover foam from past carpet and then scrub the floor on my hands and knees with a bristle brush.  The hardest part of all was slowly and agonizingly unfolding and raising my contorted body from a cold, hard concrete floor to an upright position. That’s when I wished I’d been more careful when I was painting the walls and ceilings…..and that I was younger. 
After I became a hunchback

Then I had to cover the walls with paper.  Here’s a tip for anybody who wants attempt their own acid staining project.  The best way to attach your paper is to position it about ¼ inch from the bottom of the wall and then tape the paper on the top and the bottom from the outside.  And if you are using heavy paper, like I did, use a LOT of tape.  Otherwise I suggest you begin developing a inspired list of swear words and put together some creative phrases so you will be able to draw upon them quickly when the top edge of the paper falls off as you’re trying to attach the bottom edge. 

 Once all the preparations were completed I donned my meth gear, gritted my teeth, crossed my gloved fingers, sprinkled the etching mixture on the floor, got down on my hands and knees, and scrubbed the mixture into the concrete.  I didn’t worry about any stray insects because I was happy to etch their little guts to death.  Here’s another tip.  Use a plastic sprinkling can that actually scatters an even spray of solution.  Not one that splashes big puddles. 

Spray with mist of water before slopping on the etching solution with defective sprinkling can.

Brush til the foam disappears or your body breaks--whichever comes first.
I thought the worst was over when I was able to finally shuffle my hunched body out of the room, but I was so wrong.  Removing the etching solution using Dean’s dinosaur of a shop vac almost broke me.  Since the recommended method of hosing the floor with a pressure nozzle didn’t seem to be a viable option, I resorted to sprinkling it down with the pump sprayer, scrubbing with a brush (yes, on my hands and knees again!) and vacuuming it up.  Easy peasey.  Until I realized the shop vac would not maintain its suction unless I was bent over with my nose nearly on the floor so I could hold it at the precise angle it required to maintain the seal.  I repeated that process three times.  It almost took me as long to become vertical again as it took to clean the floor.  I seriously considered calling out for Dean to help uncurl me but I knew he wouldn’t be able to hear me over his swatting.

Finally, I was ready to stain.  I began early in the morning, before the box elders had warmed up enough to mount their attack.  It was a race against time.  As I sprayed I began to hear the whap .. whap .. whap .. whapwhapwhap .. of Dean’s fly swatter.  I stained as fast as I could because I was afraid a bug would slip through Dean’s defenses and become mired in the stain before it had time to dry.  Here's another tip.  Use the circular spray nozzle.  Do not use the fan-shaped “designed to kill box elder bugs” spray nozzle on your pump sprayer.  Do not.  If you do, you’re going to be unhappy with the result and feel obligated to take your husband's suggestion to try hand brushing on another coat of stain to see if it helps, which means getting down on your hands and knees again holding a little paintbrush in your already swollen and aching hand, and layering on another coat.  Not only that, you will be forced to grit your teeth and admit he was right.  As if that wasn't bad enough you will then decide it needs just one more coat and you will get down on your hands and knees and hand brush the whole room again. On the other hand, when you find out later your husband thought he had the recommended circular nozzle (if only he knew where it was.....) you will be able to use those creative phrases once again.  That being said, if you like the leather look of your floor after the wrong nozzle layered the stain on so thick that it took ten hours to completely dry, go for it.

After the first spraying of stain but before a creative usage of words.

After two joint-swelling hand-brushed coats of stain.
The final step was to seal the floor and I got lucky because it was cold and cloudy so the vile bugs were moving as slowly as I was by that point. 

I almost had a panic attack when it rolled on white.  I thought I had accidentally opened a can of primer.  I had to double check the can to be sure I was using sealer.   Even bug parts would have been better primer!
In the end I managed to best the enemy forces and accomplish my goal of a warm and inviting floor without incorporating one box elder leg, shell, antenna or squirt of guts.

All it needs now is baseboards, curtains, and a sewing project!

The look of leather.  It's not just for furniture.

*Obviously I’m connected again.  Wouldn’t you know, just as I’m back on a blogging roll I might be going back to work……..or not.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Celine Needs To Eat More

If being furloughed is a precursor to my retirement next year I am going to be in a boatload of trouble.  No, not a boatload – a shipload.  I am going to be in a shipload of trouble.  I am going to be in a sinking shipload of trouble.  I’m just not used to having all this time on my hands and I don’t quite know what to do with myself.  Sure, sleeping nine or 10 hours a night uses up some of the time, and chasing fur balls with a dustmop is fun for about … actually it’s not fun at all.  Reading in the middle of the afternoon, or watching Love It Or List It at 10 in the morning, or doing laundry on a weekday just doesn't have the same feeling of cunning triumph when I am pretty sure I am going to be able to do that the next day and the next and the next and the next.

What’s a furloughed girl to do?  Turns out I bake.  Yep.  Bake and bake and bake – banana bread, cinnamon rolls, sandwich bread, rice pudding – and then I eat and eat and eat…………………….and eat some more.

Before the weightiness of this furlough pushes me down into the oceanic depths though, I’m going to share a recipe in the hopes I will have company.  I got this from Abby and it’s awesome.  It’s very moist and very flavorful.  I followed the recipe exactly the first time I made it but if Congress doesn’t send me back to work soon I’m going to try it again with a little coconut added.  

Abby says it doesn’t taste nearly as good after about three days, however I cannot attest to that because mine didn’t last that long.  I also only let it cool for approximately one minute (not hour) before serving –if hacking off a piece and shoving it into my mouth counts as serving.  And I don’t have a photo either because………….well, you figure it out.

 See you at the bottom!

Low-Fat Banana Bread

4 large ripe bananas
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 ounces fat-free cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces and chilled

1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake bananas on rimmed baking sheet until skins are completely black, about 20 minutes.  (Do not turn off oven).  Cool bananas completely, peel, and mash with potato masher until smooth.  Measure 1 ½ cups mashed bananas and discard any excess.

2.  Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.  Whisk eggs and vanilla in small bowl.  With electric mixer on medium low speed, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl until combined.**  Add oil and cream cheese, one piece at a time, and mix until only pea-sized pieces of cream cheese remain, about 1 minute.  Slowly mix in egg mixture, then add mashed bananas and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds.

3.  Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs attached.   50 to 60 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes, then turn onto wire rack and let cool at least one hour.  Serve.  (Bread can be stored at room temperature for up to three days).

**Use a deep bowl if you have it.  It’s a little dry and chunks may fly out of the bowl with the mixer.